First black box from crashed plane found


Important evidence: Members of the National Transportation Safety Committee carrying a box containing the flight data recorder of Sriwijaya Air flight SJ-182 retrieved from the Java Sea where it crashed. — AP

A black box from the crashed Indonesian passenger jet has been recovered, officials said, a discovery that could offer critical clues to explaining why the plane with 62 people aboard slammed into the sea.

Divers just off the coast of the capital Jakarta hauled the jet’s flight data recorder to the surface yesterday, as the hunt continues for its cockpit voice recorder.

Indonesian transport minister Budi Karya Sumadi told a live television briefing that the box had been found – after the Sriwijaya Air Boeing 737-500 plunged about 3,000m in less than a minute before slamming into the Java Sea on Saturday.

An AFP reporter on a navy ship said investigators started picking up strong signals from an area where they were searching, with divers able to retrieve the box in about an hour from the wreckage-littered seabed.

So far authorities have been unable to explain why the 26-year-old plane crashed just four minutes after takeoff.

Black box data – which record information about the speed, altitude and direction of the plane as well as flight crew conversations –helps explain nearly 90% of all crashes, according to aviation experts.

Budi added officials believe the cockpit voice recorder is nearby.

“We strongly believe it’ll be found soon, ” he said.

Some 3,600 personnel are taking part in the recovery effort, assisted by dozens of boats and helicopters flying over small islands off the capital’s coast.

The agency deployed a remotely operated vehicle to assist the divers.

Scores of body bags filled with human remains were being taken to a police morgue where forensic investigators hope to identify victims by matching fingerprints or DNA with distraught relatives – some held out hope of survivors.

“We haven’t accepted it yet, ” Inda Gunawan said of his brother Didik Gunardi who was on the flight.

“Our family is still hoping for a miracle that he is still alive.”

Authorities have identified flight attendant Okky Bisma, 29, as the first confirmed victim after matching fingerprints from a retrieved hand to those in a government identity database.

“Rest in peace up there darling and wait for me... in heaven, ” Okky’s wife Aldha Refa wrote on Instagram.

A transport safety agency investigator has said the crew did not declare an emergency or report technical problems with the plane before its dive, and that the 737 was likely intact when it hit the water. — AFP

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